InfoComm 2019 Preview: Major Focus Is Big Sound, Large Venues
Sports continue to grow in importance at installed sound’s main expo
Increasingly encompassing the live-event aspect of sports, the InfoComm Show (June 12-14, Orlando Convention Center) has become a counterpoint to the broadcast-centric NAB Show for sports media. The sound from towering line-array speakers covering tens of thousands of fans in the stands has become virtually as important as the audio signals sent to millions of viewers. In fact, sometimes a game is beside the point, such as when more than a half million people gathered to hear and watch the NFL Draft take place in Nashville in April, joining 6.1 million viewers on ESPN/ABC and the NFL Network.
AVIXA (Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association) was previously known as InfoComm and retains that name for its expos. It’s the trade group and, in some instances, a standards body as well for the audio, video, lighting, and control-systems industry across sectors including education, corporate, house of worship, and hospitality.
In recent years, the show has led the way on technology implementation for live events, including sports, and has served as North America’s largest dedicated pro-AV exhibition. As a result, huge line-array PA systems are now on display at the InfoComm Show alongside the ceiling speakers traditionally found in boardrooms and restaurants. The show has seen steady growth over the last two decades, drawing more than 40,000 attendees each year.
“No longer is it enough for fans to come to a stadium, sit in a seat, and watch a game or other event,” states AVIXA’s white paper on sports venues. “Venues face competition from fans’ own homes, where they have high-definition TVs and easy access to snacks, beverages, and other amenities. To get fans in the door, sports teams and venues must offer much more than a game; they need to deliver a compelling experience. New audiovisual (AV) technologies are the foundation of modern fan engagement.”
It’s All About the Audio
Jack Kelly, president, Group One Ltd., which markets the DiGiCo and Calrec brands in the U.S., says, “Consultants and integrators that attend InfoComm to learn or see more traditional audio products are the same folks that are designing, bidding, and installing large systems in sports venues.” He adds that fans’ broadcast and streaming options for watching their teams continue to grow, necessitating better in-venue experience. “Sound is a big part of that,” he says, “just as the broadcast audio for sports is on television.”
The InfoComm Show has been the crossroads of a number of trends in live sound that involve sports. Two years ago, the rider-ready–music tour-sound companies d&b audiotechnik and L-Acoustics began moving deeper into sports-venue markets. At this year’s expo, Danley Sound Labs, which has been a leading brand in sports venues, such as LSU’s Tiger Stadium and the NFL Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, will announce that one of the same Jericho systems regularly deployed in sports stadiums will be installed in Live Nation’s Hollywood Amphitheater music venue in St. Louis.
“It’s reached a point now where consumers are expecting quality sound everywhere, in concerts and in stadiums and arenas,” says Danley President Mike Hedden. “And the sound systems have reached a point where they can achieve that in any kind of venue.”
Besides demonstrating hardware, PA-system manufacturers use the InfoComm Show as a convergent classroom opportunity for users to learn the nuances of system software. For instance, L-Acoustics will be offering training on its DSP systems. The company will also join other manufacturers and integrators on a conference-program panel on sound-system design and integration in sports venues.
“There’s nowhere else that you can see and hear all of these systems in a single location and where you can get manufacturer training on them,” says Dan Palmer, business development manager, sports facilities, L-Acoustics, which had its first U.S. sports installation in 2006 at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s arena. He adds that, in the 15 years that L-Acoustics has been participating in the InfoComm Shows, the evolution of sound for live sports has been well-illustrated.
“It’s been there all along,” he points out, “but now there’s more of it, and, perhaps more important, the stakes are higher than ever — for sports and for sound.”